September 19, 2011

Snap-on 11n APs can Compensate for Weaker Wi-Fi Radios on Tablets and iPads

It is clear that personal devices in the workplace, known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) are on the rise, with one analyst predicting that up to 1.2 billion of the global workforce will be mobile by 2013, according to IDC.  From a work and education perspective, the most spectacular growth is in tablet computing with iPad sales growing at 55% in 2012 only to be greatly outstripped by Android tablet growth of 134% (in 2012 non Apple Tablet PC sales will grow) .  The latter is likely due to price – I’ve seen prices as low as $59 for a 7” Android tablet.

And this is all happening so fast.  In fact, HP is exiting the market with realization that the PC market is cratering and their tablets weren’t selling enough. This is a portent — tablets are taking the personal computing top-spot and laptop dominance is quickly fading.

But these lightweight tablet devices have a dirty little secret – they have weaker Wi-Fi radio transmitters.  Since they need to be always-on for stretches of 8-10 hours between charges, their Wi-Fi radio transmitters have far less power than a standard laptop, which has around 44dB SNR (decibel signal-to-noise ratio).  iPads have  about 1/6th the power of a laptop with 25dB SNR and the cheap ‘clone’ tablets clock-in at around 15 db or about 1/10th the power of a laptop, according to Motorola Solutions.

So what does that mean?

The WLAN that was great for laptops may be really lousy for tablets.  For example, I am sitting in a hotel in Amsterdam at this moment and my laptop shows ‘signal strength: “very good, speed: 52.0 Mbps” yet my iPad shows ‘no service.’  I found if I stand on the coffee table and hold the iPad just over my head I can get a signal.  You can get a more accurate read of your Wi-Fi situation using apps like AirRadar or Speedtest.net to test Wi-Fi signal strength.

So, what can IT do?  Upgrade to 802.11n with improved send and receive power and make sure to deploy enough APs.  That sounds too easy and it is.  Deploying WLAN access points in great enough numbers to give these weaker radios nice, strong access has design and deployment challenges that include ladders, jackhammers, cables and lots of ceiling dust.

You can make this easier with the use of a snap-on Altitude 4511 wallplate 802.11n access point from Extreme Networks.  You can make them as dense as you need without hassle as you just put them over existing Ethernet wallplates and move them around in minutes to fine-tune your coverage without a ladder and popping up ceiling panels.  They are very powerful for their size (at 26 dBm) so you’ll get great coverage despite walls, desks, and various kinds of obstructions.

-Andrew

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Extreme Marketing Team

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